Still, an engrossing look inside Al Capone’s murderous ranks and a chilling examination of a natural born killer.

DEADLY VALENTINES

THE STORY OF CAPONE'S HENCHMAN "MACHINE GUN" JACK MCGURN AND LOUISE ROLFE, HIS BLONDE ALIBI

Gusfield presents the short, brutal life of “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn (1902 –1936), born Vincent Gebardi, a gifted athlete who became notorious as Al Capone’s deadliest lieutenant and putative organizer of the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929.

In a parallel narrative, the author charts the dissolute history of Louise Rolfe, an archetypical jazz-baby flapper who, when liquored up behind the wheel, would prove nearly as fatal as her eventual paramour McGurn. Gusfield structures the book as the tale of the young lover’s ill-starred romance, but the story is heavily weighted toward McGurn, whose natural toughness, intelligence and physical grace quickly elevated him in the ranks of the Capone organization, where he earned a reputation as a meticulous planner and devastatingly effective assassin. Gusfield provides a lively, detailed history of gangland Chicago in the 1920s, deftly parsing the intricate chains of betrayal and murder that drove the city’s bootlegging trade and limning the era’s swinging style and heat. The author perhaps overly idealizes McGurn, endlessly praising his boyish good looks, athletic gifts, taciturn implacability and ruthless efficiency—a climactic passage in which McGurn’s dream of playing professional golf decisively collapses is rendered with the gravitas of Greek tragedy. Rolfe, portrayed here as essentially a spoiled, drunken nitwit, never resonates as a compelling character in her own right, making Gusfield’s emphasis on their short-lived and unremarkable romance puzzling and giving his otherwise cleanly propulsive account a somewhat lopsided shape. McGurn would never have stood for such sloppiness.

Still, an engrossing look inside Al Capone’s murderous ranks and a chilling examination of a natural born killer.

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61374-092-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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